Despite the partisan bickering in Washington, D.C. over the future of health care, millions of Americans will soon be making decisions regarding their health insurance plans and coverage during the upcoming open enrollment season. This year, the open enrollment period at healthcare.gov is shorter than usual and only runs from November 1 through December 15, 2017. While politicians debate the Affordable Care Act (ACA), self-employed Americans and entrepreneurs should be focused on what the current law means for them and their family. Now is an important time to review current health care needs and insurance plans and evaluate any changes to prescription drug coverage or other necessary benefits unique to a particular situation.
With all the news about health care, it may be difficult for the American public and the small business community, including the growing 27 million self-employed entrepreneurs and micro-businesses, to decipher exactly what is happening with health care and available options. The most important thing to know right now is that you can still access health care plans on the individual marketplace. The bottom-line: now is the time to start thinking about your current plan and the potential health care options as open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplaces is just around the corner.
Before the ACA, the self-employed had limited options when it came to health insurance, but under the ACA, these entrepreneurs have better options for coverage, often at a more affordable price. A 2017 U.S. Treasury Department report showed one in five customers benefitting from the marketplace was a small business owner or a self-employed individual. As a self-employed small business or similar entity considering purchasing your health coverage this year through the Health Insurance Marketplace, it is important to have the necessary information.
Here are some of top things you need to know.
The Health Insurance Marketplace is now in full swing — and closes on December 15. Because the enrollment period is much shorter, you must decide on a health care plan before the deadline. You cannot count on automatic enrollment of your current plan this year because automatic enrollment does not occur until after December 15 and could potentially lock you into an unwanted plan. Small business owners and entrepreneurs can go to healthcare.gov and shop for coverage or choose to work with a registered agent or broker. If you need in-person assistance in enrolling, free expert help is available by calling 1-800-318-2596 or online at http://localhelp.healthcare.gov.
Many of the current consumer protections will continue to apply as part of the coverage found on the Marketplace. For example, you can’t be turned away because of a pre-existing condition or charged more because you are a women, and many plans will include provisions known as Essential Health Benefits, which cover things such as maternity care and other benefits that may be important for a particular circumstance.
For entrepreneurs who already have health insurance on the Marketplace, this may be your chance to shop for a better, more cost-effective plan. The options in your area may have changed this year, so don’t assume the available plans are the same as last year. By just doing a little research, you may find a plan that is better fit for you and your family. You may even qualify for a tax credit to help afford coverage.
Through the implementation of the ACA, over 20 million Americans have been able to access health care insurance. America continues to be stronger today because of everyone has obtained critical coverage from the law. While it does need work to strengthen it, over a million self-employed individuals have now benefited from the freedom to choose the plan that is most convenient and inexpensive for them. The ACA provides access, flexibility and high-quality care that the American public and small business community deserve to have — and the peace of mind that comes with having health insurance to allow you to focus on what matters — growing your business.